Staffing in aged care will be targeted by the Federal Government.
Staffing in aged care will be targeted by the Federal Government. Tony Martin

$2m to fund taskforce into aged care staffing levels

THE Federal Government will allocate $2 million to investigate staffing in aged care facilities.

The pledge comes as Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt announced a raft of reforms in the sector.

"Adequate and appropriate aged care staffing is a top priority, with the Turnbull Government currently establishing a taskforce, to be led by Professor John Pollaers, to produce a workforce strategy," he said.

"The government has committed $2 million to support the work of the taskforce, which will include membership from a range of employee, industry and aged care sector groups, plus experts in the workforce field."

The NewsMail has reported previously on staffing issues in aged care facilities, most recently when Blue Care slashed nurse hours at its three Bundaberg facilities earlier this year.

Bundaberg nurses took to the streets to protest the cuts, saying the elderly would be left in dire hardship.

In addition to funding a review into staffing, Mr Wyatt says a number of recommendations from an independent Kate Carnell report will be adopted.

Plans include setting up a website with ratings out of five for aged care homes based off audit results and consumer reviews.

If the recommendations come into being, aged care facilities would stop being notified when inspections are due to be carried out and visits would be conducted over at least two days.

A new Aged Care Commission Board would oversee accreditation, complaints and compliance, replacing the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

National Seniors Australia has welcomed the news as a "huge step forward".

National Seniors' chief advocate Ian Henschke said changes such as doubling interviews with residents from 10 to 20 per cent during site visits would make a difference.

"National Seniors maintains that all residential aged care consumers or their representatives should be interviewed as part of the aged care assessment process, with the right to opt out," Mr Henschke said.

"Anything less means critical insights into actual consumer experiences of care will be missed.

"We welcome the recommendation of bringing responsibility for quality, complaints, consumers and clinical advice under the single umbrella of a new Aged Care Commission."

However, aged care advocate coalition Action on Elder Abuse Now has slammed the Carnell report, saying it has failed to recommend an independent body to oversee aged care inspections.

The government's Australian Aged Care Quality Agency currently carries out checks.

"This is the same agency that, in the past, has overseen accrediting facilities such as Oakden and numerous others that have subsequently been found to be sub-standard," spokeswoman Charli Maree Darragh, whose mother was murdered in an aged care facility in 2014 said.

"We've now had umpteen reviews into residential aged care in this country and we can now add Kate Carnell's Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes to a long list that has failed to deliver the real shake-up needed."

Ms Darragh has called on Mr Wyatt to introduce a "two strikes" policy that would see rogue care operators with poor track records having their licences revoked.

A former Blue Care nurse of 43 years, Bundaberg aged care advocate Cheryl Dorron, labelled suggested reforms such as star ratings as "gloss and glitter".

"The accreditation process is based on the inspection of documentation with the premise that if its documented it's being 'done'," she said.

"All that these changes will achieve is further effort by management to get the documentation 'right' so that at any given time, like a 'surprise visit', it will pass scrutiny."

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